the morning shakeout | issue 448


Good morning! I’m still refilling my tank over here but the good news is there’s more gas in it than a week ago. Let’s dive right in.

Quick Splits

— Whether it’s running, your work, or some other pursuit that’s important to you, I think performance specialist Robert Wilson’s advice holds true when it comes to sustainable performance: Don’t major in the minors. What does he mean by this? In short, don’t let a fancy new coat of glossy paint distract you from the big building blocks that will keep your figurative house on solid ground for a long time. In running, we see this more and more these days with many athletes and coaches thinking, or even promoting the fact, that the secret to their next breakthrough lies in pricking their ear between intervals, running with an altitude mask, having the latest and greatest super shoe, breathing only through their nose, napping under a red light, taking exogenous ketones, or some other form of minor-league bullshit that distracts from the foundational elements of sound training that you need to develop and hone ad infinitum. “As cool as they are, it's not the gadgets that make Batman awesome,” Wilson writes. “It's the grit, it's the commitment, it's the training. It's the collection of the things that matter most being done with consistency and attention over and over and over again. Exercising with focus and regularity, going to bed on time, eating real food in appropriate quantities, and having meaningful social connections are among the boulders in wellness.” Or, to quote John L. Parker, Jr., in Once a Runner: “What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials. How could they be expected to understand that?”

— University of Washington coach Andy Powell is someone whose career I've been following since high school. He was a year ahead of me in our home state of Massachusetts, not to mention one of the best runners in the country. A miler through and through, he ran 4:02 at a time when boys weren’t breaking 4 left and right like they are now. Powell went on to an OK but injury-riddled career at Stanford, but he’s really made his mark as a coach, first at the University of Oregon, and, since 2018, at the University of Washington alongside his wife Maurica. His specialty? The mile, of course, and its metric cousin, the 1500m. Powell has coached nine NCAA champions in those events, including the last five men’s winners dating back to the 2022 outdoor season, not to mention a number of other podium finishers over the years. Joe Waskom, who won the 2022 outdoor 1500m title, did it again this past weekend, ripping a 52-second final lap to win in 3:39.48. He was in 7th place with half a lap to go, but maintained his composure and put himself in position to win coming into the final straightaway. In a post-race interview, Powell, who had three athletes in this year’s NCAA final, explained why he has his guys running separately from one another in key workouts toward the end of the season. His answer was equal parts interesting and insightful. “I want them all to think that they can win,” he says. “If it’s 4/3/2 at the end, or six 200s, whatever it is at the end of practice, just kind of let them all do it on their own so then they’re finishing practice and feeling good about what they accomplished individually, and hey, ‘I have a little bit more in the tank,’ or whatever it is, let them all think that they have a good chance to win.”

— The men’s 800 meters at the NCAA Championships looked like something out of a video game and you’ll just have to watch it here for yourself to see what I mean. Pay particular attention to the final 150 meters as the field comes into the final turn. Virginia's Shane Cohen, who was in DFL at the time, swung wide as he tried to get around everyone in front of him. He knocked down a runner from Indiana while he was starting to accelerate—I’m honestly surprised that he didn’t get DQ’d for it—and found a clear lane on the outside to blow by 7 guys in the final 100 meters to win the race. He stopped the clock at 1:44.97, splitting 52.18/52.79, while Texas A&M’s Sam Whitmarsh, who wasn’t exactly in a great spot either coming into the final straight, looked like an NYC cabbie weaving through traffic en route to an exciting runner-up finish.

— I’ve long believed that anyone who considers themselves a competitive runner should race cross country at some point of their careers: middle-distance runners, ultrarunners, and everyone in between. There’s no purer form of competition and the benefits—namely developing strength, speed, toughness, and racing skills—translate well to any discipline. So, you can imagine my delight at this recent article on iRunFar on the cross country-ultrarunning connection, which takes a brief look at both disciplines, and how the two can work together to make you a better, more well-rounded athlete. “But why cross country?” writes Lydia Thomson. “Ultrarunning and cross-country running are not common or natural bedfellows, particularly at the elite level. We know many elite middle- and long-distance athletes use cross country to build strength for road and track races — but ultras? Surely cross country is too short and spicy for an ultrarunner to excel at. Not so, say [Tom] Evans and several other elite runners who mix ultrarunning and cross country quite well. For Evans, the benefits include improving ‘speed and ability to run fast over changing terrain (mud, hills, and more), as well as practicing the race craft and tactics. You can’t afford to make one mistake in a 30-minute race.’”

— Shalane Flanagan, one of the greatest American distance runners of all-time and a two-time guest of the morning shakeout podcast, wears a lot of hats these days: mom to two young kids, wife, coach of both the University of Oregon women’s distance runners and the Bowerman Track Club, and probably a few more that most of us aren’t privy to. Sarah Lorge Butler recently caught up with the 42-year-old, who uses herself as a guinea pig for workouts before she assigns a session to her athletes, and it’s a good read. “I don’t like to refer back to myself a lot,” she told Lorge Butler. “But I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’ve had experience with this,’ and I think they know, when I’m giving them advice, it’s not a hypothetical. I’m not projecting or guessing. They know it’s coming from a genuine place, because I’ve lived it,” she added. “I think that can be helpful with their confidence.”

— My wife, Christine, introduced me to “You Wish” by Nightmares on Wax several years ago now and it’s one of those songs that I have going on repeat when I’m trying to get into some kind of groove or even if I just want to zone out for a bit. It works equally well in both situations. Here’s a one-hour edit I found that you can just let run in the background while you’re working, chilling, or doing whatever.

— From the archives (Issue 83, 7 years ago this week): I know a lot of running coaches read this newsletter each week. Every one of you should watch this video clip of Sam Houston State baseball coach Matt Deggs talking about how his team was eliminated from the College World Series Super Regionals over the weekend. Listen to his players talk about him. The full 16-minute press conference is worth watching and chock full of valuable lessons any coach can apply to his or her practice. “For years I was a transactional coach: what can I get? What can I get?” Deggs says starting at the 13:30 mark of the video. “I’m a transformational coach now. It’s not about wins or losses. It’s about love, it’s about building men, building relationships that will last forever…there’s no greater honor than to sacrifice for a brother. And that encapsulates and embodies this team to a T.”

— A big thank you to my partners at New Balance for supporting my work this month (and throughout 2024). When it comes to running shorts, I’m super picky, which is why I end up wearing half-tights most days. My biggest issue with shorts has to do with fit: the waist is weird and/or doesn’t have a functional drawstring, the liner is either too tight or too loose, and/or the length doesn’t feel right. Pockets, or lack thereof, are also a problem. New Balance came to the rescue this year with the revamped RC Shorts and I’ve stocked myself up for summer! These are the best running shorts I’ve ever worn and that is not hyperbole. The material is lightweight, breathable, and nearly seamless, the waistband is just the right thickness and features an external drawstring for plenty of adjustability, and the liner is incredibly comfortable and supportive. Plus, they have a secure zip pocket in the back and two built into the liner to carry whatever you might need. Oh, and they come in different lengths—3, 5, and 7 inches for men (5” is my personal go-to), 3 and 5 inches for women—and a nice range of solid colors to boot. Check ’em out for yourself right here!

Workout of the Week: Two-Minute Reps

Not every workout will leave you hunched over with your hands on your knees afterward—in fact, most of them shouldn’t—but every once in a while you just need to go out and make yourself as uncomfortable as possible. Here is one of my favorite sessions for achieving that end.



The bottom line.

“True confidence is living in uncertainty.”

—Phil Stutz, psychiatrist, on a recent episode of the Rich Roll Podcast


That's it for Issue 448. If you’re enjoying the morning shakeout, please do me a solid and forward this email to someone else who might also appreciate it. (And if you’re seeing this newsletter for the first time and want to receive it for yourself first thing every Tuesday morning, you can subscribe right here.)

Thanks for reading,

Mario

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mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

Discover what’s possible through the lens of running with training tips, workouts, and other bits of goodness from coach Mario Fraioli. Every Tuesday morning, Mario shares his unapologetically subjective take on things that interest, inform, inspire, or entertain him in some way.

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